Strife and My Levi Jackets

Tonya Langdon —  March 24, 2011

Wanting to teach the preteens in my class about the choices they make regarding their attitudes and strife in their lives, finding a suitable visual aid was proving to be difficult. Sitting on my bed after rummaging through cupboards, my eyes fell on my two Levi jackets…one that is over-sized and quite comfortable and the other is a fitted jacket that fits, well a bit more snuggly. Like a flash of lightning, an idea popped into my head. A wild idea, but amazing idea.

Armed with two different colors of duct tape, red for the over-sized jacket and white for the fitted jacket and a marker I began to label the jackets. The over-sized jacket is my “strife” jacket that was labeled with different “negative attitudes”. You know the ones, a deep s-i-i-g-h when you ask them to do something, slamming of the doors, back talk, ignoring requests, being disrespectful, arguing, selfishness and my all time favorite…the rolling of the eyeballs! I labeled my sleeves, the back of my jacket, on the pockets, where ever I found a place for the red duct tape. On the other jacket, with the white tape, I labeled all the positive attitudes that were the opposite of strife, “I’ll do it now,” thank you, I would like you to have the biggest part, “I can do that for you,” etc.

The next morning in class as I slipped on the over-sized and comfy jacket I on, I began telling them how a “negative or bad attitude” can feel like my comfy jacket…easy to put on, comfortable like an old friend, familiar, and “you just grab and throw it on without thinking.” I asked the kids how many of them had these bad attitudes…one of the boys shouts out “All of them!”  As I took off the over-sized jacket and slipped into my fitted jacket (struggling a bit for show), I relayed how challenging it is to change your negative attitude but with God’s help we can change it into a positive attitude. After we talked about all the new attitudes that were written on my jacket.

Taking off my jackets, holding one in each hand, I asked which attitude are they going to choose this week, the old comfy, negative attitude or the new, cheerful attitude. Then I threw out a challenge for them to do over the next week…if they changed their “bad” attitude to a “good” attitude when they were asked to do something, they would get 50 extra tickets (we do a monthly gift card drawing).

Last weekend, we recapped our lesson about changing our attitudes and found that 10 of them changed their attitudes at least once during the week!

Tonya Langdon

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Tonya is married with three children. Tonya currently spearheads The Agape Connections (special needs ministry), teaches the 4th & 5th grade Sunday school class and leads a support group for parents who have children with A.D.H.D. and Behavioral Disorders at Skyline Church in La Mesa, Ca. The Agape Connections work with families who have special needs children so the entire family is able to attend church services and age appropriate church activities. In Tonya’s “free time” she is studying for ordination, writes articles and co-owns an office products business with her brother.

4 responses to Strife and My Levi Jackets

  1. Tonya’s bio fails to mention she carries the acronym THBOTP (The Hottest Babe On The Planet), assigned by one who is truly unbiased in his assessment, me, her loving husband.

  2. John,

    Should I go ahead and add that to her bio here on the site? 🙂 Now I understand why she nominated you for this! 🙂

  3. I like the concept and the imagery. Obviously it really made a connection.

    One concern I would have (which I and other children’s and student staff has seen regulary in our church) is that this can lead to moralism. Over the years we see that for kids growing up in church (including my own) they tend to think that they are doing well by being “better behaved.” It can even lead to some subtle spiritual pride.

    I write a little about that here: http://differentway4kids.blogspot.com/2010/11/how-churches-can-fall-short.html

    I think the main point of Gospel-centered living is not about doing better, or even about God helping us do better. The core issue needs to be God changing our heart, through repentance and faith. Those 2 things (repentance and faith) are what we always need to come back to. Behavior will be an outflow.

    To be clear, I am not cracking on the idea; but we just have to be careful about the message it sends. It is a subtle difference and a line that we need to tread carefully on.

    • Joey,
      Thank you for your insight and can understand how you might come to that conclusion.
      These are 9&10 year old children who for the most part did not have any understand that they have a choice in how they react to someone who is asking them to do something that they did not want to do. It is not being rewarded because they had better behavior rather that they acknowledged that they CHOSE (God working on their hearts)on how to react! As God helps them to be more aware of their behavior and choices, they will be able to repent when they have fallen short.